I’ve been logging a lot of miles lately, but this story is about a trip that I was so excited for because it could be a day trip where I could sleep in my own bed at night. I was just going to hop on a plane to Atlanta with my backpack for the day and be home in 8 hours—no sweat.
I flew to Atlanta, had my great meetings and then headed to the airport with a smile on my face, just happy for a successful day. Getting settled on the plane, the gentleman next to me greeted me.
“I’m so excited to be on a flight that has no technical difficulties,” he said.
“Sir, I’ve learned that you never say those types of things because you may just jinx our ride,” I said. We both laughed and smiled.
Boarding finished, the doors closed, and I thought we were off for a normal day of commuting for me. That was, until we heard from the captain, saying they needed to figure something out, but we’d be taking off soon. As these things go, we left the gate, taxied, came back to the gate, and six more announcements later, we still had gone nowhere.
“So sorry for the delay,” the captain finally says after two hours. “Thanks for your patience. We are finally out of here.” We’re taxiing as he tells us we’re ninth in line for takeoff, so it could be 20-30 minutes before it’s our turn.
We feel the engines revving as we’re next in line, and we’re excited to just take off. That’s when commotion in the back of the plane begins. A flight attendant from the front of the plane unbuckles and runs down the aisle to get a passenger under control. The plane comes to a stop, everyone is freaking out – it’s chaos on board while passengers wonder what’s going on and why we halted so suddenly.
Your heart sinks, and you’re thinking, “What now?!”
The guy sitting next to me had a good view in his aisle seat, so I ask him what’s going on.
“I have no clue, all I can see is a flight attendant rolling around on the floor with something in their arms,” he said. Another flight attendant is talking to a passenger, trying to settle them down, he explains.
The captain comes on with his apologies, “We have to return to the gate to remove a disruptive passenger, so we’re now delayed.”
The entire plane moans in agony as patience has now finally worn out.
As we sat at the gate waiting for authorities to remove the passenger, news made it up to our seats of what actually happened: It started with a passenger who had slept through the entire two-hour delay. When she woke up, she was bewildered with how we were not in Chicago, but still on the ground in Atlanta. Passengers and a flight attendant tried to explain to her what had been happening, but she became belligerent, screaming and calling someone on the phone to complain that she wasn’t in Chicago. Passengers moaned and helped the flight attendant by telling her to please sit down and be quiet. Apparently, the passenger decided to run up and down the aisle on her phone right at takeoff, which prompted another passenger – a complete stranger to this woman – to stand up for the woman having an outburst. As she told people to leave the woman alone, her dog escaped from her lap.
So now we have this little dog running around our airplane and a belligerent passenger, which led to the flight attendant rolling on the floor. The glimpses that the man next to me described earlier made sense – the flight attendant was trying to catch and corral the dog while another one was trying to calm the passenger down.
The crew did a fabulous job at the gate of keeping everyone calm, and the disruptive passenger voluntarily got off the plane. But of course, the crew now must recheck everything – whether they are still eligible to fly us given the delay, along with fuel, flight plan, etc. It was another delay, this time to check to see if we could even get home tonight. The captain was hoping, for all our sakes, that we would, because there were no other flights back to Chicago until morning.
“Wow, this is fun,” I thought as I looked down at my backpack that lacked anything for an overnight.
Luckily, the crew pulled through, and 45 minutes later, we got a blissful announcement that again – for the third time – we’d be pulling away from the gate, and the captain hoped we’d actually takeoff and land in Chicago.
As our wheels landed in Chicago, the gentleman next to me turned and said, “I must apologize to you.”
“For what?” I wondered; it had been such a long time since our first conversation.
“You’re right, I totally jinxed this and all the events today are my fault.” We both had a good laugh.
As I pulled into my house at 12:30 a.m. that night I realized I was just four hours away from the time I’d departed the morning before. It was an exhausting day, but thanks go out to a great crew who kept their calm and professionalism, despite people acting crazy.
Flying presents enough legitimate opportunities for delays in order to keep us all safe. It’s unfortunate there are so many avoidable delays making the news headlines these days that could be prevented with a little civility, common sense and courtesy.
Happy travels to you all!